Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Comments on "The hermeneutics of fittingness: ad orientem / versus populum"

Archived comments from the post, ""The hermeneutics of fittingness: ad orientem / versus populum"" (Musings, May 2, 2006):

Lang of course addresses many of the arguments that have been advanced in favor of versus populum. What I find most discouraging is the immovable culture that has grown up around the practice. Few Catholics offer any theological rationale for versus populum. If you suggest that ad orientem is more appropriate, they look at you like you belong to an alien species, and offer a bland retort along the lines of: "Surely you don't think we should go back to the days when the priest TURNED HIS BACK TO THE PEOPLE?" Any argument in defense of ad orientem is met with rolled eyes and a sigh.

When such an attitude enjoys the backing of the Pastor, what is a traditionalist to do but suffer silently?
Dave | 05.02.06 - 2:45 pm | #

I don't want to overplay the "suffering" aspect. I do find joy in the Novus Ordo. Besides, denying the validity of the Novus Ordo is not an option for a faithful Catholic. There is a danger in getting too wrapped up in the writings of people like Cardinal Ottaviani. Still, there is an "culture" of the Novus Ordo that is very intolerant toward new(!) ideas. I find that culture a bit oppressive.
Dave | 05.02.06 - 2:51 pm | #

One interesting arugment, I suppose, is the idea that versus populum is not so much about "facing the people" as it is about "gathering around the Lord". I don't really buy this argument. It has a certain cogency, but it lacks theological weight.
Dave | 05.02.06 - 3:13 pm | #

Card on table: I am convinced that ad orientem makes coherent sense and is edifying and a fitting means of communicating grace.

That said, let me take a whack at offering something approaching a rationale for a versus populum orientation. Novel vocabulary and terminology will, I hope, not enter into this, if for no other reason than that a Catholic 100 or 500 years ago ought to be able to accept the argument.

1. At the end of the Mass, the celebrant declares thusly: "Ite, missa est" [Go, She is sent.] So that She may more fully fulfill her mission, the priest must speak through the Church (the building as well as the people). Speaking as he will, he will vivify the people through the Word of God and use the west doors as a mouthpiece to the secular world.

2. God Incarnate, hanging on the Cross, not only communicated with His Heavenly Father, but audibly to those who gathered at the foot of the cross. In such wise, the priest, who acts in persona Christi speaks not only to His Heavenly Father, but also to those gathered at the foot of the cross.

One other thought, although admittedly this wouldn't make sense 100 years ago: since the Mass is in English and most of our priests mumble in to microphones, perhaps we could eliminate microphones by requiring a versus populum Mass to be sung?
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.02.06 - 4:53 pm | #

It makes perfect sense for the "Ite, missa est" to be said facing the people. Lang's proposal allows for a combination of versus populum and ad orientem where appropriate.

As for the second rationale, it is true that Jesus spoke both to the Father and to "the people" while he hung on the Cross, yet the Eucharistic Prayer is addressed exclusively to the Father.
Dave | 05.02.06 - 5:02 pm | #

I prefer Ad Orientem and I have also not heard a good explanation for facing the people that was theologically sound. Why it it they are worried about "turning the back on the people", which by their own logic would mean that the priest is now turning his back on God.

Besides it encourages Mass as entertainment and forces the priest to see himself as an entertainer instead of focusing on worship of God and the sacrifice of the Mass.

Though this is something they could start doing now without any permission (unless of course it is a television Mass in the Diocese of Birmingham)
Jeff Miller | Homepage | 05.02.06 - 5:04 pm | #

St. Augustine gave a homily in which he spoke of the burden of being what he was FOR his people, and the consolation of being what he was WITH his people. One filled him with fear, the other with joy.

I think that the versus populum posture makes the priest always FOR the people, and never WITH them. I think it is too burdensome and that the graces of priesthood were not meant to support that kind of pressure.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.02.06 - 5:47 pm | #

I believe the Psalmody for today includes a refrain that says,"Let the People praise you; let all the people praise you." (I may be wrong on the day, but that refrain is in one of the recent Psalm readings for daily prayer.) Anyway, versus populum is the way to go; I would rather praise and adore the Host while we are facing each other than with His back towards me. Or maybe I'm just dumb.
Fagan | 05.02.06 - 5:51 pm | #

As a convert from Anglicanism, I simply do not get the concept that if the priest turns his back on the congregation he is not still "with" them. If he is praying, his head is bowed, our heads our bowed. Eye contact ends anyway, does it not? It is all done in the presence of the Lord, and everyone in principle is oriented towards him anyway. The "community" concept seems very much a heavy-handed emphasis of Vatican II responding to what must have been a dry and clerical culture. Of course we are a community: we are the family of God. That dosn't mean we need the priest to have an eye-lock on us, or must be subbjected to the ugliest church architecture ever imagined. Many Vatican II liturgical legacies have about as much lasting substance as the Good News Bible does translation endurance. Both are ecclesiastical equivalents of bell bottoms and Bob Dylan. The sooner they fade the better. My very opinionated three cents.
Joe | 05.02.06 - 8:42 pm | #

Emphasis on a congregationalism that our protestant brethren might find congenial is the only explanation for ad populum.

Instead of being in communion with God, let us be rounded off like a blister into communion with Fred, Sally, Sabrina the Liturgical Dancer, and those nice Gribbishes from down the street.
ralph roister-doister | 05.03.06 - 1:55 pm | #

"Which Way to Turn: A Tale of Two Citations

Does the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal require Mass facing the people? Or do priests and the faithful have a right to Mass celebrated in the traditional manner?

http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Peri...11/ liturgy.html

By Rev. Joseph Fessio, SJ"
Paul Borealis | 05.03.06 - 1:58 pm | #

"Turning Towards the Lord
Orientation in Liturgical Prayer

http://www.adoremus.org/ 0405Litu...icalPrayer.html

by U.M. Lang"


http://www.ewtn.com/library/litu...gy/ smturned.txt

Monsignor Richard J. Schuler"
Paul Borealis | 05.03.06 - 2:17 pm | #

"Options in the Roman Missal"

"On February 7, 2000, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, responded to an inquiry from Bishop David E. Foley, Bishop of Birmingham in Alabama, concerning the choice of various options at Mass."

"Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
Prot. N. 2321/99/I.

The United States of America"

http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/inn...ws/ 022000.shtml

"As regards the position of the celebrating priest at the altar during Holy Mass, it is true as Your Excellency indicates that the rubrics of the Roman Missal, and in particular the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, foresee that the priest will face the body of people in the nave while leaving open the possibility of his celebrating towards the apse. These two options carry with them no theological or disciplinary stigma of any kind. It is therefore incorrect and indeed quite unacceptable that anyone affirm, as Your Excellency sums up this view, that to celebrate towards the apse "is a theologically preferable or more orthodox choice for a priest who wishes to be true to the Church's authentic tradition.""
Paul Borealis | 05.03.06 - 2:33 pm | #

Thanks, Paul.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.03.06 - 2:48 pm | #

I was both Lutheran and Anglican before I was Catholic, and it's true: in both cases, the pastor/priest would face the altar at key moments in the liturgy. Traditionalists often complain that the New Mass is too "Protestantized"; I find that this is a misnomer, because calling the new mass Protestant is giving it too much credit. Most Protestant services have retained more of the tradition that was uncerimoniously jettisoned by the RC Church in the 60s with the unmitigated disaster of Vatican II. It's quite a miracle that I became Catholic at all, given the almost univerally poor aesthetic quality of Catholic worship today.
Anyway, yeah, put me on board with the others here who prefer the priest facing the altar, the "old-school" method.
Andy Nowicki | 05.03.06 - 4:31 pm | #


Nobody, to my knowledge, argued anything that Cardinal Estevez doesn't. Inter alia, however, when was the last time that you saw a priest celebrate the Pauline Missal ad apsum? If both options are equally legitimate, why is only one allowed by the terrorists who require that NO Latin should ever be used "Because we won't turn back the clock". You might just as soon argue that there is no sanction with any of the three means of receiving Our Lord -- for while this is true in the legal sense, when was the last time a priest received praise from the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd for distributing by intinction or on the tongue, from the altar rail?

The Cardinal is quite correct, since St. Peter's has the possibility of celebrating versus populum, but why is ad orientem such a tremendous issue? Or Mass in Latin according to the Pauline Missal? Or .... or ... et cetera. Did you also know that it is allowed that a man be a virgin on his wedding night?
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.03.06 - 5:16 pm | #

I celebrate every so often ad orientem in the Pauline Missal, (sometimes in Latin). It is easy enough to construct a catechetical sermon that underlines the symbolism in a way that people can understand and not be threatened by. The looking towards the Lord dimension, the rising sun as a natural "icon" of the Resurrected One, is the one I focus one. It makes more sense, of course, if the Church IS oriented and the Mass is in the early morning with the light streaming in through a beautiful window. Chanting the Canon also makes a difference.

I think the Old Mass is preferable though.
Ephraem | Homepage | 05.04.06 - 12:32 am | #

Did you also know that it is allowed that a man be a virgin on his wedding night?

Stand up comedy. But too sad and too true.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.04.06 - 6:59 am | #

Thanks Paul. Thanks Ephraem.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.04.06 - 7:00 am | #

"It is easy enough to construct a catechetical sermon that underlines the symbolism in a way that people can understand and not be threatened by. "

Eureka. How encouraging to hear a cleric actually put some stock in his own preaching and that vehicle in general. Thank you!
Joe | 05.04.06 - 9:54 am | #

I think part of the reason we haven't really read a theological excursus of the kind we want on versus populum is that it's been treated as though it were simply a settled issue, a kind of no-brainer. There was no need to elucidate the theological argument for facing the people, because it had won a victory that was virtually unchallenged in the practical sphere. Oh, sure, there might be a nut here and there or an archaeologist who wanted to go back to all that nonsense, but there was no real need to justify the thing than there was to justify being friendly to other members of the congregation after Mass.

Now, there's actually a challenge and people are really starting to DO it the old way. After the attempt to ignore all this comes to grief, we MAY finally see some attempt at putting the good side of versus populum AS OPPOSED TO ad orientem.

As another lover of ad orientem, let me too take a crack at being the advocate for the disfavored postion: I think the best argument for versus populum is simply the same argument for participation in general: You should know what's going on. In order to know what's going on, you should be able to hear what's going on and see what's going on.

One of the most effective arguments AGAINST the typical way of celebrating Low Mass in the old days was that it was as if some guy up there was doing his thing without reference to you and you were watching him do it without any real reference to you. You could strive to learn what was going on--learn the gestures and learn some Latin and get a Missal and strain your ears and eyes: What's Father doing now? Oh, yes, it must be the Gloria. Okay, now it must be the Quam Oblationem. Father just patted the altar with his left hand; that means he just finished the Epistle. Oh, I heard him say, Ite Missa est! Etc. You could do all that. But it still smacked of watching somebody else do something.

You could do all that. Or you could do what a lot of others were doing: you could just let your mind wander and try to pray now and then. You could pray the Rosary. You could remember to strike your breast and say My Lord and My God at the consecration. That sort of thing.

Now, of course, this is a bit of a caricature. But if you don't think some people FELT this way, you're kidding yourself. And today, some Novus Ordo Catholics are moved and intrigued when they go to the old Low Mass for the first time. But others are put off and puzzled, not by what seems an atmosphere of reverence, but by what SEEMS to them an atmosphere of distance and a lack of connection between the action at the altar and the pews.

The best argument for versus populum is the argument for the hand missal at the old Mass: it helps you follow what's going on.

Of course, it also tends deplorably to turn to showmanship and "kumbaya, let's gather round." But I've been to New Masses versus populum where one DIDN'T have that feeling. When I watched P
Jeff | 05.04.06 - 11:20 am | #


When I watched Pope Benedict at his Installation Mass, for example, I felt as though I was coming into priveleged contact with a holy soul in prayer. And that helped raise my mind to God, where it belonged. And come to think of it, I had the same reaction when I watched John Paul pray the Mass. There was no attempt at showmanship, no playing to the masses.

Oh, JP nearly ALWAYS played to the Masses. But not when he prayed the Mass. When he PRAYED the Mass, one felt his gaze was directed into the interior, inward and upward. The look on his face was the same one that there he had when deep in prayer. And though that might have made you think a bit about HIM, in the end, it made you SEE the action of God in the soul of a real Believer and raised your mind to Spirit of the Lord.

Okay, there my best shot at an Apologia pro Missa Versus Populum. Tear her to pieces! I really will take the ad orientem Mass 999 times out of 1000. But y'all KNOW the arguments for THAT one!
Jeff | 05.04.06 - 11:27 am | #

Let me add that this is a really good exercise by Dr. Blosser. Even if ad orientem is innately superior to versus populum--and I believe it is in almost every way--what a thing is in essentia and what it is in the experience of a Believer are not always the same thing. People can find True Devotion in versus populum and can find boring rote in ad orientem, regardless of what they are in their pure metaphysical selves.

And we have to understand what makes Versus Populum attractive to many souls if we want to persuade them to be open to ad orientem again. We have to remember that good people have schooled themselves over the years to take the best out of what the Church, after all, did give them. Otherwise, we are just engaging in the "fanaticism" that Benedict condemns in his Preface to Lang's book.
Jeff | 05.04.06 - 11:34 am | #

"Did you also know that it is allowed that a man be a virgin on his wedding night?"

Yes, well, perhaps virginity has "pride of place".
ralph roister-doister | 05.04.06 - 12:38 pm | #

"116. The Church acknowledges virginity as specially suited to men at the time of matrimony: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in prospective conjugal relationships."

YES! I knew it was there somewhere, a little known codicil to SC. Kumbayaists promptly decried the implicit lack of tolerance and compassion in the doctrine's strict interpretation, and the statement of preference to apply to any man who has been a virgin AT ANY TIME IN HIS LIFE. Commonweal published a six part series on the subject in the 70's, penned by a Jesuit who subsequently left the priesthood and now sells soft pretzels at Yankee Stadium. I think he got the idea from Heidegger, but you really should run that by Fr Joe.
ralph roister-doister | 05.04.06 - 12:56 pm | #

. . . and REINTERPRETED the statement of preference . . . .
ralph roister-doister | 05.04.06 - 12:59 pm | #

Not only did he get his ideas about virginity from me, but I also originated the idea of selling soft pretzels at large sports venues, which, with my usual keen insight, I deduced would be a sure money maker. As a matter of fact, at 01:57:41 of "Triumph of the Will", I can be seen briefly selling soft pretzels at a Hitler Youth rally. ACH! I have not gotten a sliver of the credit that I truly deserve.
Martin Heidegger | 05.04.06 - 1:30 pm | #

Gee whiz, Mr. Roister-Doister!

I've been wondering about the rubrics of the missa normativa in terms of when the priest is for the people and when he is with the people.

My reading is that generally speaking he is praying for the people towards the Lord when he extends his arms (i.e. with the people as their leader); and when he folds his hands he is speaking to the people (i.e. for the people as God's chosen representative.)

Here's a link to an article related to this question (though not precisely on the same point): http://www.catholicexchange.com/...14&art_id=28525
Kathy | Homepage | 05.04.06 - 3:13 pm | #

While I appreciate the comments, I didn't really intend it as a stand up comic line. More like gallows humor, if it had to be humorous at all. There are people, hopefully none here, who won't see the ultimate irony intended in the comment.
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.04.06 - 5:02 pm | #

I'm just afraid someone will take it as meaning that sleeping with your fiancee is no worse than attending a celebration of Mass versus populum.
Jeff | 05.04.06 - 6:07 pm | #

Roister, I must say it's deliciously delightful to break the fast of Lent with you and have you back.

Jeff, I appreciate your excursus on the versus populum thoroughly. I agree that many Catholics today would perceive in the ad orientem "what SEEMS to them an atmosphere of distance and a lack of connection between the action at the altar and the pews," as you put it. Still, I can't help recall that this sense of distance is precisely what attracts others, as it attracted Evelyn Waugh, as, for instance, when he could write: "Of the extraneous attractions of the Church which most drew me was the spectacle of the priest and his server at a low Mass, stumping up to the altar without a glance to discover how many or how few he had in his congregation; a craftsman and his apprentice; a man with a job which he alone was qualified to do."

The benign (brazen?) indifference toward the sentiments of the congregation here has always delighted me. In contrast to those Fundamentalist sects who are forever plucking at your sleeves, seeking to cajole you into attending or joining this or that affair, there is something blissfully impressive about the serene unflappable centeredness of the Church. Thomas Howard comments on this somewhere, citing the words of Augustine, "securus judicat orbis terrarum" ("the whole world judges securely and authoritatively," loosely translated), that is, where the Church's judgment is identified, in a manner of speaking, with that of the whole world. The full quotation from Augustine, who was writing against the Donatists, is: "Quapropter securus judicat orbis terrarum, bonos non esse qui se dividunt ab orbe terrarum, in quacumque parte orbis terrarum" ("The world as a whole judges safely and authoritatively when it condemns those, wherever they may be, who cut themselves off from unity with itself").

I've found this same attitude in Opus Dei. Opus Dei does not come solicitously knocking on your door. In fact, you have to practically beat down the doors of Opus Dei houses for members of the work to begin taking you seriously. It seems to me that this attitude was much more typical of the Catholic Church traditionally than today.

Today many Catholic churches have become much more solicitous, with greeters, hand-holding during the Our Father, coffee and donuts after Mass, and Wednesday evening church dinners and such. Some parishes begin to look like full-service community centers, with everything from scouting programs to aerobics and yoga classes.... (continued).

Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.05.06 - 8:20 am | #

(Continued) ...

The question, of course, is what is the ultimate end to which everything is subordinated. What is the focus? What was refreshingly simple and clear for me at St. John Cantius in Chicago was that the focus was not on Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion hovering about the Altar, or upon self-appointed choir divas performing in front of the congregation, or upon the congregation at all. Everything conduced to converge one's focus upon what was happening at the Altar. Never mind that most of it was inaudibly soto voce. It was The Sacrifice. There was no question about that. HE was there. Should we congregants not be struck dumb before the shock and awe of this mystery but wish to mutter and babble something to assert our selves into the situation? Au contraire! Blessed silence!
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.05.06 - 8:22 am | #

In keeping with that last thought, how refreshing the hymn, "Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand ..."

... in contrast to all those noisome self-assertive strum-along numbers that are abrasively imposed on us as our ordinary fare most Sundays as Novus Ordo Catholics!

Talk about narcissism, I even ran across a "liturgical song" in which the text thanks God "for the wonder that is me" (emphasis added). God is being thanked, true. But where's the focus there?

Have you ever seen these RCIA programs where the facilitators ask the participants to plot their "spiritual journeys," and the focus is entirely on the participant's subjective experience? Me, me, me!
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.05.06 - 8:37 am | #

May I recommend this month's Adoremus Bulletin? Lucy Carroll has an article very much a propos to this thread.
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.05.06 - 4:23 pm | #

I hope it's obvious that we agree, Dr. Blosser. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of that Waugh quote as I wrote!

It's a useful exercise, though, to probe at one's own weak points. It makes me a bit uncomfortable when I find that the Right and True Path matches up--mirabile dictu, once again!--with my own preferences and prejudices. Of course, the two can perfectly well coincide. But I think if there IS a place for Doubt in Religion, this is where it ought to be cultivated.
Jeff | 05.05.06 - 9:28 pm | #

Gee, I've got to read Evelyn Waugh one of these days.

I was wondering if someday we could hash out Postmodernity and the Limits of Subjectivity. There is a place for subjectivity in the Mass. "Pro nobis" is an important liturgical expression. It's even in some way central. But not self-consciously, and with pride of place being overwhelmingly given to the Lord and His work on our behalf--including, in my opinion, His creation of us.

So we are great, and worth rejoicing over. Eucharist = thanksgiving and we should be giving thanks for what affects us personally, especially being, and especially the saving action of the Trinity. So where does the subjective end and the properly theological begin in praise? I think that's a meta-question of the hermeneutics of fittingness.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.05.06 - 10:38 pm | #

I can't resist posting this here, too, for any who aren't following the dead thread below.

Apropos of my sometimes heated discussion with Kathy about Mozart's fittingness as liturgical music which anyone can read in that thread...


At 11PM, I posted my comment above, recommending that Dr. Blosser should listen not to Mozart's teenage Masses, but rather the great Coronation Mass and the Ave Verum Corpus, while looking at some choice Rococo church's on his screen.

I see this morning that the at 1 something AM, Gerald at Closed Cafeteria posted a story that the Pope has just said a High Mass at St. Peter's. Guess what music? Mozart's Coronation Mass! Guess what the Communion Hymn was? Ave Verum by Mozart!

Here's the link:

Jeff | 05.06.06 - 9:44 am | #

Chris, thank you for the note on Lucy Carroll's article in Adoremus Bulletin. It's always nice to find something substantial and worthwhile besides an encyclical or apostolic letter or Vatican instruction in the Bulletin.

Jeff, there was never any question of disagreement with you, despite the way I used your provisional rationale for the versus populum as a foil for my own comment above. Also, thanks for the later remark and link a propos Mozart's Coronation Mass and the Ave Verum Corpus. This morning I listened to the latter piece on a CD as performed by the Cathedral Singers under the direction of Richard Proulx, and I can't help thinking it is among the most syblime pieces ever created. (Sorry Chris, I just don't hear a 'penny whistle' -- at least in this recording. But then, neither did I in my sister's family's rendition of it at my wedding.)

Kathy, you raise a good question, in re "subjectivity," concerning the proper place for celebrating and giving thanks for the gift of ourselves as God's good creation alongside our giving thanks to God for the gift of Himself or His Son, etc. This, at least, I take to be your question. May I take you also to be suggesting some happy medium between too low a view of self, low self-esteem, eclipse of self, on the one hand, and an overweeningly egotistical centering on self, on the other? I would suggest that a psychologically balanced anthropology is one thing, but, that aside, should there really be any debate about Whom the focus should be upon in a service of divine worship? Is not the traditional Roman Mass entirely and without reserve centered upon Christ? If there is even any question about this that is raised in the context of the modern culture of Catholicism, does it not raise troubling questions about this new culture?

I agree that John Paul II and Benedict XVI in their writings have opened vitally important new paths of thinking about such things as marriage, sexuality, and love from the perspective of the subject's lived experience (Erlebnis) and lived world (Lebenswelt). Here the subjective focus of Husserlian and Schelerian phenomenology in the background of Karol Wojtyla (JPII) and the Nietzschean critique of Judeo-Christian morality (or the caricature of it) in the background of Benedict XVI have been singularly important in their coming to terms of their coming to terms with deficiencies in traditional Catholic apologetics and catechesis. It is true, perhaps, that the ethos of pre-Vatican II Catholicism in some venues failed adequately to emphasize the joy of this life, the gift of sexuality, the goodness of our bodies, the importance of feelings, and value of the individual, etc. This calls for correction of apologetics and catechesis, not change of Whom we worship, obviously.

(Continued ...)
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.07.06 - 3:40 pm | #

(Continued ...) The question, therefore, of what the focus should be on in corporate worship, or, rather, Whom the focus should be on, remains unaltered, it seems to me. In fact, to the extent that the versus populum has contributed to distracting from our focus upon HIM in worship, I would say that our personal experience has been diminished and harmed by the liturgical innovations we have experienced as Catholics since Vatican II.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.07.06 - 3:42 pm | #

Perhaps one could acknowledge that both practices have legitimate historical precedents and still insist that, in this day and time, when there is a diminished recognition of the nature of the priesthood and when nobody doubts the communitarian ASPECT of the Mass, there is strong pastoral reason to "turn the altar around."
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.07.06 - 10:38 pm | #

I don't have anything very cerebral to add to the discussion, but I do have a question. A few years ago an older priest told us that since he began facing the congregation he has had problems with distractions. The most serious he mentioned was when women were wearing mini skirts. I was at a Confirmation Mass the other evening and I was amazed at the plunging necklines and the amount of flesh being displayed. So my question is whether this is a problem for priests, whether the congregation is ever a distraction?
ellen | 05.08.06 - 7:35 am | #

Ellen, my retired Hollywood actor friend, a convert to the Catholic Faith, goes positively ballistic over some of the things he sees at Mass in the (lack of) clothing department. A Life Teen Mass with a teen-age girl serving as lector, reading the lessons with her blouse pulled down off of one shoulder; and I won't even describe what she was wearing when she descended from the Altar and turned to bow to the Alter. One might say "At least she bowed." "No," I would reply, "It would have been better hand she remained upright." Where are the parents in all this? Themselves, all too often, wearing what looks like beachwear. One has to wonder ...
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 8:27 am | #

Dr. Blosser, thanks for your comments.

Far be it from me to suggest any concern about self-esteem. The expression makes my stomach churn. Who cares how high someone's self esteem is? And is there some sort of objective meter that could be employed? And if there were, wouldn't it have a different reading during the course of someone's best activity (e.g. lacrosse) and a different reading altogether when the same person is e.g. being indicted?

Couldn't care less about self-esteem.

Is not the traditional Roman Mass entirely and without reserve centered upon Christ? If there is even any question about this that is raised in the context of the modern culture of Catholicism, does it not raise troubling questions about this new culture?

I think you are making a theological error here. By His own will, and the will of the Father, Christ and His Body have become inseparable. We worship Him, not ourselves, true. But since the Incarnation we can't really consider Him without considering at the same time our relationship to Him. "For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven." We worship Him as He is, in a glorified human body.

As a Church we are constituted and sustained by His presence and the constant presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Part of what should take our breath away and give us reason to rejoice and give thanks is our salvation, our co-working in the ministry, and our incorporation into the Body of Christ.

Lastly, I would point out that the Mass is overwhelmingly addressed to the Father rather than to the Son. Still, I would say that you are right in saying that the OBJECT of our worship is Christ. We DIRECT our worship to the Father. But the SUBJECTS worshipping are made holy by that act and cannot be irreverently dismissed. Hopefully they will "forget themselves" according to the flesh. But hopefully they will also remember themselves as God's beloved children and rejoice before the Father with thanks.
Anonymous | 05.08.06 - 9:23 am | #

(Sorry, that was me.)
Kathy | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 9:24 am | #

Where, indeed, are the parents?

This is precisely the point that makes my gorge rise when I hear people on EWTN and Catholic radio, priests and bishops among them, babble their baby talk about the smurfy wonderfulness of World Youth days, Kingdom Bound groovefests (which half the kids there don’t even realize is not a Catholic event) etc.

As one who is old enough to remember from his college days the utter dishonesty of hippie, pseudo-hippie, and spoiled-suburban-schmuck-wants-to-be-a-hippie events, I can only goggle at the bubbleheadedness of people who think that they can awaken a love for Jesus in the hearts of soft, coddled, indulged little butterballs by delivering it in such cheesy wrappings.

Back then, Woodstock and similar “hippie” festivals were supposed to be about love. They were really about getting laid and fast and as frequently as charm and biology allowed. If you were a teenage boy, drugs and alcohol were wonderful inventions, but their primary function was to facilitate getting a certified female on her back with a minimum of time and effort.

Everyone was shocked, SHOCKED!, by the misogynistic humor of Andrew Dice Clay several years back. What these Wrong Way Corrigan bluenoses didn’t get was, Clay’s humor captures, with jewel-like clarity, the typical teenage boy’s view of typical teenage girls. IT’S THE TESTOSTERONE -- AND THE CULTURE -- STUPID!

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, no one parachuted 42nd street whores into Woodstock to service these pimply-faced omnivores. YOUR PARENTS’ DAUGHTERS DID!

The icon at contemporary Christian festivals may be Jesus instead of the Maharishi, and the message may be one of salvation instead of insemination, but if you don’t think plenty of the latter occurs along the way, I think you are sadly mistaken and incredibly foolish. The dress is just as provocative, if not more so, than it was then, and the fine young Christian teenage boys still have testosterone popping out of every pimple – you do the math.

It is hard to believe, even now, that John Paul promoted these things. And that buffoons like Fr Stan the rapper-priest still peddle the myth that Christianity can be sustained by such freakiness. And that parents don’t have the common sense to see through the hype.
Martin Heidegger | 05.08.06 - 10:17 am | #

Ok, martin is really me. Like you needed me to tell you.
ralph roister-doister | 05.08.06 - 10:36 am | #

If Catholics attending Mass (even and especially the Novus Ordo Mass) paused to reflect upon what it is that they are actually participating in, they would be stunned into silence -- albeit a silence infused with joy. We are with Jesus at Calvary (along with Mary his mother, our mother). We are crucified with Christ. How often do we think to apply that saying of Paul to our participation in the Mass?

Consider also the theological import of the Father-directedness of the Mass. Why do we not talk to Jesus more during the Mass? Precisely because we are so UNITED to Jesus Christ that his voice becomes our voice, his cry becomes our cry, and his SILENCE becomes our silence. Through him, with, him, and in him. Not "to" him. The fact that we do not pray to Jesus during the Mass (except in a couple of places) does not imply detachment from the Lord; to the contrary, it implies the deepest and most profound intimacy with him. We are almost too close to him to have a conversation with him!

My daughter received First Communion this past weekend. It was a joyous event, and yet the way that the Mass was celebrated appalled me. In its (unintended) irreverence, it was a compendium of all the horrors associated with the Novus Ordo that have been discussed on this blog. The implicit focus throughout was not the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit, but the wonderfulness of the community gathered together. The Mass was opened and closed in an atmosphere of social chattiness. I needn't describe the details, because I'm sure that it is all too familiar to everyone here. Suffice to say that it nauseated me.

In light of all of this, I find Martin Heidegger's commentary about WYD quite thought-provoking.
Dave | 05.08.06 - 11:33 am | #

Somehow I don't think the next WYD will be quite like the last one.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 11:58 am | #

To take it a step further, feminism has always struck me as an attempt to ape the worst instincts of the male -- the trousered penis. All Andrew Dice Clay ever did was say boo to them. He was one of about several billion canaries in the mineshaft, over the past few decades, to point out that the culture with which elements of the Church are so anxious to engage, specializes in the reduction of all possible human relationships to matters of tool use.
ralph roister-doister | 05.08.06 - 12:48 pm | #

Martin, Ralph:

Thus it has ever been.

It was a dyed-in-the-wool tool user who became the great Augustine.

Where would we be without him? In other words, where would we be if St. Ambrose had turned him away at the door?

It all depends on HOW we engage. WHETHER is not for us to decide. We must beat the hedgerows!!
Kathy | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 1:01 pm | #

Being Out Of Line, or Slavery of the Mass to the Age: Towards Understanding Being-at-bad-Liturgy.
By Father Heidegger.

There are some common errors concerning the understanding, activities and characteristics - in relation to, and associated with, the location and activity of Dasein in the phenomenal domain, particularly in Sunday Morning wor-ship, and its celebration. The problem is this: The Inauthenticity and error of Being-the-world (In-Serpent's-Welt-Sin), or worldliness which is the Original Fallen-ness of Dasein, is confused with Being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-Sein) and, more exactly and importantly, Being-at-the-Holy-Mass, even Being-in-Christ.

Being-the-world is not compatible with authentic Sunday Morning wor-ship or Being-at-the-Holy-Mass, which is prayerful-ness and thanks-giving in Christus, and wor-ship of the Heavenly Father, In-the-Holy-Ghost. The Reality and project by which Dasein is saved, is hidden or obscured, now understood and experienced as desacralized average everydayness, as the product of the liberal liturgist's own Thrownness, or as a goofy-good-time and hey-let's gather together, (the banal arrogance, Irreverence, and folky jazzy happy go-lucky ego-and-community modern self-celebration); and thus the general structure of the true Liturgical Sacrifice is distorted by Dasein.

Dasein Inauthentically and wrongly places itself and Das Man where God should be recognized and reverently adored. Authentic Liturgy degrades into existentiell-ontic self-projection (In-der-Silly Clown-Sein), resulting in a subjective death of God (and the loss of the Sacred and the experience of the Real Presence). At this sort of modernistic Being-in-and-for-self/community celebration, there is no room for Being-guilty-before-God, that Understanding which constitutes the humble recognition of the actual Being, Holiness, and Love of God, - and His real and radical claim on Dasein. But sadly, there is no sense of Being responsible. Nobody seems to Care, and finitude and Nothingness replaces God and transcendence.
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 1:33 pm | #

What are you trying to say here? That Monica need not have worried about her son, who turned out a-ok in the long run? Monica did not "engage" -- she prayed. That, I suspect, is what saved Augustine.

As for your last paragraph, the question of "how" has been precisely my point this morning. "Engagement" with the culture is to my mind a code word for surrender to it -- deliberate surrender, or perhaps more likely, an inundation born of facile optimism bumping up against reality.

Keeping it at arm's length, rather than aping its grubbiness, is an absolutely critical responsibility, especially for anyone entrusted with the care of children. It is also very, very difficult, especially as stylin' in the manner of the enemy is so popular these days.
ralph roister-doister | 05.08.06 - 1:33 pm | #

Of course condoning the bad should never be a part of the Church's "engagement." But people have to be met where they are.

Monica's tears were crucial, but so were Ambrose's teaching and example.

Ambrose was able to meet Augustine at a strong point--reason. He engaged what was good in him, and that was instrumental in defeating the bad.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 2:10 pm | #

"Of course condoning the bad should never be a part of the Church's "engagement."

You say that so easily, as if it were the easiest thing in the world to grasp. And yet -- forty years of chaos and discord, precisely because so many in the Church have not grasped it. This "engagement" thing -- it ain't "Bob the Builder" meeting Fred in "Mr Rogers' Neighborhood".
ralph roister-doister | 05.08.06 - 2:35 pm | #

Regarding "Being Out Of Line, or Slavery of the Mass to the Age: Towards Understanding Being-at-bad-Liturgy", by Father Heidegger...

I would have liked to see Father Heidegger write more about the unhappy presence of horrible 'contemporary' and 'rock' musical styles in liturgies (Being-in-bad-Taste), and to write something advocating the excellent 'ad orientem' tradition, and related matters.
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 2:47 pm | #

...and to write something advocating proper and beautiful liturgical art, etc.
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 2:50 pm | #

Dave wrote:

"My daughter received First Communion this past weekend. It was a joyous event, and yet the way that the Mass was celebrated appalled me. In its (unintended) irreverence, it was a compendium of all the horrors associated with the Novus Ordo that have been discussed on this blog. The implicit focus throughout was not the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit, but the wonderfulness of the community gathered together. The Mass was opened and closed in an atmosphere of social chattiness. I needn't describe the details, because I'm sure that it is all too familiar to everyone here. Suffice to say that it nauseated me."

My comment: I am sorry you had to experience this (the negative aspects), but you write about it well. I wonder what the Priest would say, feel, and respond, if he read it? I wish Catholic priests (and Bishops) could read it, reflect, and make positive changes. Thanks!
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 3:10 pm | #

Please forgive my ignorance, since I'm new to this conversation and have only learned a little on this issue (I know, a little learning is a dnagerous thing). I have read elsewhere about the proper placement of the altar being toward the east, the direction of the sunrise and usually associated with Our Lord. If the tabernacle and the altar are already facing east (as they are in my church) does that impact the positioning of the priest? Ought he to face the east in offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? In this case, the versus populum orientation would be the correct one, wouldn't it?. Or does the direction the priest faces not matter as long as the altar and tabernacle are in the right place? Hope I'm not derailing anything. I appreciate these discussions.
Amy G. | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 4:46 pm | #


Welcome to the conversation. Just a few quick thoughts for starters.

1) We face the East because this is where the Son comes from -- and yes, I did change the spelling of the word on purpose. We Christians did the same thing when we "appropriated" Christmas: "Sol invictus" went from the Sun god to the Son-God.

2) Once upon a time Church law required that church buildings be built on an East-West Axis, so that the Sun would come in through the stained glass above the altar and tabernacle. Church law, to the best of my recollection, no longer requires this. It would be worth asking if this is correct, and if so, why.

3)If memory serves, the principal behind the arrangement of St. Peter's, Rome, was that the priest, being behind the people, faced the same direction that they did, but this time from behind.

4) "Facing East" can only refer to the same thing as "versus populum" in the situation I just described, but in this case the priest is looking at the backs of the people instead of vice versa.

5) All of the preceding only serves to accentuate what His Holiness said when he was still a lowly Cardinal at the Holy Office: the orientation ought to be TOWARD GOD, not toward the community. Anything which diminishes the centrality of God in the Mass is, ipso facto, a bad thing.
Chris Garton-Zavesky | 05.08.06 - 5:32 pm | #

Facing the congregation also makes it almost necessary to sort of "act" during the Mass. Acting friendly, acting devout, acting interested: these are activities that we all do during Mass--and none of us should.

Mass is not a time for feigning ANYTHING.

hypocrisis = hypocrisy means ACTING.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 5:46 pm | #

From my perspective, it is less about literally facing compass East, but more about, during those key parts of the Mass that require it, symbolically 'facing the Lord', - as opposed to 'facing the people' literally, and even perhaps symbolically, throughout the entire liturgy. If I am not mistaken, having an altar cross can help reinforce this 'facing the Lord' orientation.

Also, I understand it as placing the priest on our side of the altar, i.e. as leading, representing and interceding for the faithful at the Altar of Christ, towards God the Father.

For example, during the Gospel reading, the priest addresses us with God’s Word, so he can face us; but during the Liturgy of the Eucharist (excluding Communion), he faces God. The Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered for us to the Father.

An eastern Catholic priest once said to me, - concerning those churches with altars that were never designed/placed to facilitate the celebrant's Eastward orientation, - that priests must make the best of the situation, and celebrate towards (what he called) 'Liturgical East'.
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 5:51 pm | #

Ralph, we're not excused from "engagement" just because so many of us do it wrong.

Paradoxically, the problems are because of two oppositely oriented attitudes: against a Magisterium that is (wrongly) thought to be able to do nothing right, and for human nature that is (wrongly) not acknowledged to have fallen.

Once we can get those two stoooopid ideas out of our system we'll be good to go. In the meantime there is charitable work to be done, yes?
Kathy | Homepage | 05.08.06 - 6:25 pm | #

Ooops. I meant:

"...(excluding Communion being given/distributed to the Faithful)..."

As you may have noticed, I am not an expert.
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 6:31 pm | #

"Vatican official says post-Vatican II liturgy could be perfected

http://www.catholicnews.com/data...cns/ 0602428.htm

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service"
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 6:41 pm | #

"[Re]Turn to the East?
A young priest asks if it is time to consider a change in practice


by Father Thomas Kocik"
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 6:50 pm | #

I say allow Catholics to live and experience the tradition of their ancestors, the Mass (present Missal) celebrated ad orientem, with the priest "leading the people in prayer toward the Lord". At least allow the *option* of this tradition! Show some continuity. It is a serious long-standing historic and traditional Catholic practice. Why not restore a major part of the Roman Rite? There can be no harm in replacing a mere forty-year-old liturgical style and innovation, with the older and proven sacred tradition.
Paul Borealis | 05.08.06 - 7:07 pm | #

Kocik link is terrific. Thanks.

I also found his book, "Reform of the Reform" to be very, very good. He's at a parish in Mass. -- an encouraging sign and verification that God is still very much in the biz of using operatives!
Joe M | 05.09.06 - 7:03 am | #

Kocik is very good indeed. Some of you may remember the letter we from him that we published (with his permission) online on August 11, 2005 in a post entitled, "Adoremus Society opposed to 'reform of the reform'?" (scroll down to the title). Anyway, I'm glad Fr. Kocik's book was published by Ignatius Press and for the work he is doing, despite the periodic setbacks he experiences, like all of us who would like to see a new renaissance of Catholic tradition and rekindling of interest in the resources available in Catholic tradition.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 7:39 am | #

I think you are making a theological error here. By His own will, and the will of the Father, Christ and His Body have become inseparable.

Like Annie Oakley, you're not afraid to shoot from the hip. Perhaps that's your charm, Kathy.

Before you have me dragged in shackles before Tomas de Torquemada (whose case for canonization, ironically, I would like to see opened!), let me clarify. Here's what I wrote:

Is not the traditional Roman Mass entirely and without reserve centered upon Christ?

First, I hope you don't imagine me so dicht (Ger. 'thick') that I would ultimately lose sight of the fact that it is One Godhead we worship in Mass, even where distinct Persons of the Holy Trinity are sometimes distintinguished in various prayers.

Second, if you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have stressed that the ground of salvation in Catholic theology is not a forensic declaration (a la Luther or Calvin) but incorporation into Christ. There's no quarrel here.

Third, you write: "We worship Him, not ourselves, true. But since the Incarnation we can't really consider Him without considering at the same time our relationship to Him."

But here I want to guard against an error -- not one I think you are guilty of, mind you, but one which is rampant among AmChurch Cafeteria Catholics today, and that is the misguided logic that leads from incorporation into Christ to "we are the Body of Christ" to the narcissistic and idolatrous conclusion of collective self-worship.

In the path of bhakti yoga in Hinduism, there is a dystasis (a subject-object distinction) between a person and his ishta, or adopted form of the divine. However, from the perspective of ultimate reality in Hinduism, this dystasis must be dismantled, or deconstructed, because it is maya, illusion. I and the ishta are not two, but one. In fact, we are one with Brahman; or, better, we are Brahman. And so forth.

Some people think that the mystical union with Christ provides a western analogue of this. For example, when St. Peter says that we are to become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4) and when the Eastern Fathers speak of theosis (of Christians ultimately "becoming God"), some people think this may be taken to mean that our mystical "union with Christ" obliterates any distinction between us and Chris, as monist union with Brahman obliterates any distinction between the Atman (self) and ishta in Hinduism. But this is not so. Let me provide a gloss on a statement by St. Athanasius to illustrate what I mean. In effect, he said that God became man in Jesus Christ without ceasing to be God (the Creator and Redeemer) so that man could take on God's nature and thus 'become God' through incorporation into Jesus Christ without ceasing to be a creature. (Continued ...)
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 8:31 am | #

(Continued ...)

In other words, in Christianity, God remains the Creator-Redeemer and man remains the creature. Even Jesus Christ is not a creature, but always the Creator-Redeemer God. We are always the created, fallen, and redeemed. This dystasis is never obliterated by our mystical union with Christ.

Hence, as profoundly important as the insight is that we become partakers of the divine nature (and I would be the first to stress that this insight needs a more fundamental development today than it has received in Catholic history), there is something no less profound -- and profoundly misguided -- about turning the focus of worship IN ANY WAY in an anthropological direction, 'man-ward.' The words of the GLORIA are paramount:

"For YOU ALONE are the Holy One,
YOU ALONE are the Lord,
YOU ALONE are the Most High,
Jesus Christ,
WITH the Holy Spirit,
IN the glory of God the Father"
(emphasis added).

This doesn't mean that Jesus Christ alone is God. What it means, as Newman stressed, is that the Incarnation is the central doctrine of the Christian religion. God meets us in Jesus Christ. Our way to the Father is through Him. The Holy Spirit is sent to us (pace our anti-Western Orthodox brethren) by the Father and by Him.

We come to meet Him at the foot of the Cross. And here Aslan's 'deep magic' occurs: the Altar becomes a Table and we are invited to a wedding feast. The Bride and Bridegroom imagery is remain central. We come to MEET HIM in the Eucharistic Feast.

Final point: (1) at worship, our focus should be on Him; (2) outside worship, we could use better catechesis on the import of incorporation into Christ for a proper Catholic anthropology.
Pertinacious | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 8:36 am | #

Dr. Blosser,

Sorry if I offend. Agreed, a thousand times agreed: we do not worship ourselves.

But I think that our incorporation is deeper than mere "meeting." "The two become one flesh"--that is God's idea of our relationship with Christ. Christ accomplishes the utmost intimate unity but does not, as you mention, obliterate the Creator/ creature distinction.

My working idea is that in the liturgy, our salvation in all its reality is meant to be in our awareness. Awareness like this requires awareness of all those things mentioned: God is worthy of worship; we are not; we are His creatures; we are brought into deep communion with Him by Christ's saving action, especially by His Blood, by His intercession for us at the Father's right hand, and by the activity of the Holy Spirit. Our awareness is meant to be of all of these matters at once, without obliterating our (remarkably but not exclusively passive) role in them. This is borne out in MANY texts of the Mass.

In important antiphons:

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem.

Christ, ascending on high, alleluia, led a host of captives, alleluia, alleluia.

And in the Gloria:

Domine Deus Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostrum; qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.

Brief examples only--I must get back to work. My point being that there is plenty of use of the first person in the Mass, traditional and normativa.

Your charming, shoot-from-the-hip

(BTW the Orthodox would agree with you I think about the mission of the HS into the world. They would disagree about the procession from the Son within the "immanent Trinity.)
Kathy | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 9:13 am | #

Excuse me, but I rolled my eyes so much while reading your responses that they popped out and rolled under the refrigerator. It took awhile to retrieve them, and now that I have, I don't want to set them rolling, so I will keep this short:


Of course, if you are a five-star, thoroughbred apologist, engage away and God's grace to you, but keep in the back of your mind all of those former priests and nuns who engaged their way right out of the Church and into wispy-lispy unitarianism, agnosticism, and worse.
ralph roister-doister | 05.09.06 - 9:54 am | #

Dear Mr. Roister-Doister,

So sorry about your eyeballs. Anything I can do?

Thank you for your concern. Sincerely. I'll be careful. You might be surprised to know what I've been through already--and how rigid, unbending and brainwashed-by-Rome some people consider me to be, I'm happy to say.

I'd appreciate your prayers.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 10:27 am | #

Sorry, Dr. B., I meant the procession of the Holy Spirit.
Kathy | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 10:28 am | #

Thanks Chris and Paul
Amy G. | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 1:06 pm | #

... Being-the-world (In-Serpent's-Welt-Sin),

Look what you started, Brother Martin Heidegger. Between you and Brother Paul Borealis, I almost wish Fr. in-der-jacuzzi-Sein were here to enjoy the in-der-hot-tub-Sein of his Selbstsein. Almost. You guys are amazing.
Pertinacious | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 1:13 pm | #

But I think that our incorporation is deeper than mere "meeting."

Well of course. I don't think I suggested otherwise. The indispensable point here, to reiterate in slightly different language, however, is that incorporation doesn't sublate the possibility of meeting, as would be the case in the pantheistic monism of Hinduism. The Holy Trinity illustrates par excellence by way of eminence and analogy: Each Person is 'incorporated', as it were, into a singular divine substance, but without losing His own individual identity within the economy of the Trinity. Each Person eternally 'meets' the Others as distinct from Himself, while remaining one substance with them.

Therefore, yes, it's proper that we cultivate a consciousness of being corporately the "Body of Christ" in some sense, with the proper caveats in place so as to avoid presumption. But during worship, I repeat, the fitting focus is on Christ as an Oblation offered to the Father, not on ourselves as the "Body of Christ."

I was at an Anabaptist (Mennonite) service some years ago to which I was invited in the area, in which the minister explained the Pauline words about "discerning the Lord's Body" (1 Cor. 11:29), not as referring to the Real Bodily Presence of Christ (which wasn't surprising, seeing that he wasn't a Catholic), but as referring to the corporate body of the congregation. In other words, those who ate and drank unworthily in Holy Communion, according to this Protestant pastor's interpretation, were those who failed to discern that the congregation there present represented the corporate Body of Christ.

Now a Catholic may find some truth in an object lesson such as this. Yet it is clearly missing the point of Paul's intent in the Corinthian letter. Moreover, it is putting the weight on the wrong foot as far as the focal attention of corporate worship. If we are corporately the Body of Christ, this is only because we have been incorporated into Him, which happens through His action upon us in the Sacraments bestowed upon us in Church. I reiterate: in worship, whatever our peripheral attention, our central focus should be on Him.

("Offense"? There was never a thought of offense taken, my friend!)
Pertinacious | Homepage | 05.09.06 - 1:38 pm | #

What, then, is to be done? The "culture" of versus populum seems utterly entrenched. Is it immovable? Can the ordinary traditionalist "pew peasant" do anything but pray? Especially when hiking down to the nearest TLR church is not feasible?
Dave | 05.09.06 - 3:41 pm | #

" What, then, is to be done? The "culture" of versus populum seems utterly entrenched. Is it immovable? [...]"

You ask good questions, and I wish I had a simple answers. I have thought the same. Years ago, I used to bring up such issues with nearly every priest I encountered. Responses varied, but I did not find a priest wise, strong and brave enough to take the challege. I remember one, an old conservative, who proudly told me that his church still used the original heavy stone altar (1950's)- that it had just been pulled away from the wall. Very little need be done to go back to the way it was, he informed. Still, him changing it was out of the question. He would never say, but I think he knew the Bishop would ruin him (along with all his good work!), if he ever tried.

I think one needs to seriously ask (and learn): how did the 'ad orientem' (facing the Lord) practice come to be abandoned in the first place? What methods and steps were taken? What started small, grew. So remember: What can be changed, can be changed back. Priests and bishops need to just do it, no? It is an approved option, or so I understand. The only thing blocking it is a liturgical culture, a mentality. Think about it - “facing the people” (versus populum) was being practiced by priests before Vatican II, using the so-called Tridentine Mass. In an essay I provided (see link above), Monsignor Richard J. Schuler wrote:

"Nor was it impossible before the council to offer Mass toward the people. A tradition of fifteen centuries of priests' standing at the head of their congregations was swept away in a few years. That tradition admitted of exceptions. I, myself, probably had a record of celebrating Mass in Latin, facing the people, more than any other priest in the country before the council. The church where I had weekend duty had such an altar in the crypt, and I offered Mass twice each Sunday for nearly ten years, all prior to 1963."

What can be changed, can be changed back.
Paul Borealis | 05.09.06 - 5:01 pm | #

Ooops! Should be:

"...enough to take the challenge."
Paul Borealis | 05.09.06 - 5:04 pm | #

"A tradition of fifteen centuries of priests' standing at the head of their congregations was swept away in a few years."

Monsignor Richard J. Schuler is perhaps being safe. The 'ad orientem' (priest facing the Lord) practice is, I understand, much older than "fifteen centuries".
Paul Borealis | 05.09.06 - 5:11 pm | #

"Can the ordinary traditionalist "pew peasant" do anything but pray? Especially when hiking down to the nearest TLR church is not feasible?"

My opinions. Besides prayer, spread the word. Point out to priests good books and information on the matter. Many may not even know that it is 'allowed'. If I had access to the Old Mass, that would be great. I doubt I ever will. I am completely for the return of the Traditional Latin Mass. It would solve a lot of problems. That said, given mistakes, the crisis situation in the Church, and paths chosen, I think there is need, and want to see, the current Latin Rite (Paul VI Missal), even in the vernacular, move in the traditional direction as best possible, reestablishing and then maintaining continuity with things that were great in our Roman Catholic pre-Vatican II heritage and sacred practices. The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics make workable positive adaptations to the vernacular, why not we? Perhaps I think a bit like Sts. Cyril and Methodius. My hope is that Pope Benedict XVI can do something; to start with, he could publicly, once, twice, or more, celebrate the new Missal 'ad orientem' (facing the Lord). That would be great.
Paul Borealis | 05.09.06 - 6:51 pm | #

"That said, given mistakes, the crisis situation in the Church, *various cultural-social challenges and realities*, and paths chosen, [...]".

Thanks! God bless you all.
Paul Borealis | 05.09.06 - 7:18 pm | #

"I'd appreciate your prayers."

Goes without saying, Ploodily Doodily.
ralph roister-doister | 05.10.06 - 9:22 am | #

Kathy | Homepage | 05.10.06 - 9:42 am | #


I very much appreciate the comments regarding Monsignor Richard J. Schuler. Illuminating.
Pertinacious Papist | Homepage | 05.12.06 - 11:09 am | #

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